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Orica-GreenEDGE partly benefits from good weather conditions to win the opening team time trial at the Giro 5 seconds ahead of archrivals OPQS while Tuft becomes the first leader on his birthday

Photo: Sirotti






09.05.2014 @ 21:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Orica-GreenEDGE were the big favourites to win today's opening team time trial of the Giro d'Italia and the Australian team lived up to the expectations by taking the win on the flat course in Belfast. With an early start, they were one of the teams to have best conditions for a stage that was plagued by rainy weather and they put 5 seconds into archrivals Omega Pharma-Quick Step over the 21.7km course. Birthday boy Svein Tuft crossed the line in first position to become the first leader of the Italian grand tour.


Having designed their team almost entirely for the opening stage, Orica-GreenEDGE headed into today's opening team time trial of the Giro d'Italia as the team to beat but no one managed to get the better of the strong Australians on the flat 21.7km course in Belfast. With powerful guys like Svein Tuft, Luke Durbridge, Brett Lancaster, Cameron Meyer and Michael Hepburn used as driving forces, they produced a storming ride to repeat their win from last year's Tour de France team time trial.


And again their nearest rivals were world champions Omega Pharma-Quick Step who delivered an excellent performance despite lining up without their biggest specialists. The Belgian team produced a splendid performance to finish just 5 seconds off the time set by the Australian favourites.


However, the teams didn't have equal conditions for today's stage. Shortly after Colombia had kicked off the Italian grand tour, a shower made sure that the roads were completely wet for the teams that were in the middle of the starting order. The early starters that included Orica-GreenEDGE had partly dry roads and so had a clear advantage.


The late starters, however, had better conditions than anyone else as the roads had completely dried by the time Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC started their riders. That was clearly reflected in the finishing times, with the later starters almost all finishing near the top of the leader board.


Svein Tuft was the birthday boy of the day and his team chose to give him the best possible present as he was allowed to cross the line as the first rider. Hence, the experienced Canadian became the first leader of the Italian grand tour and could step onto the podium to receive the first maglia rosa.


Among the GC favourites, the big winners were Uran and Cadel Evans whose BMC team used a late start to finish 3rd, just 7 seconds slower than winners Orica-GreenEDGE. Movistar had poor conditions for their rider and so pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana will be pleased to limit his losses to the stage winners to 55 seconds.


Joaquim Rodriguez was a big loser as his Katusha team finished 19th of the 22 teams and lost a massive 1.33 to Orica-GreenEDGE. The team had poor conditions for their ride but raced almost at the same time as Movistar who did a lot better.


The biggest loser, however, was local hero Daniel Martin who hit the deck near the finish and abandoned the race with what looked like a broken collarbone. As three of his teammates also crashed, their four remaining teammates had to slow down to wait for Nathan Haas who was the first rider to get back on his bike. As a consequence, they finished last with a massive time loss of 3.26 and the GC campaign seems to be over not only for Martin but also for 2012 winner Ryder Hesjedal.


Tuft will get another day in the spotlight in tomorrow's second stage of the race which is a 217km ride starting and finishing in Belfast. The stage is almost completely flat and expected to be the scene of the first big sprint battle and we could very well see Tuft's teammate Michael Matthews take over the leader's jersey.


A flat course

The Giro d'Italia kicked off with an almost completely flat 21.7km team time trial in Belfast that included an early climb but was otherwise mostly characterized by long, straight roads. In the beginning and towards the end, however, there were a few technical sections that would challenge the cohesiveness of the teams.


The first squad down the ramp was Colombia who took off under dry conditions but as they had reached the technical finish, it had started to rain. They were down to 5 riders when they stopped the clock in 26.05 to set the first mark of the day.


Best time for Orica-GreenEDGE

Orica-GreenEDGE were already on the course and unsurprisingly, they were a lot faster than the Colombians. Birthday boy Tuft took a massive turn near the end to lead his team across the line in a time of 24.42 that was 1.23 faster than the one set by the Colombians.


Tinkoff-Saxo also benefited from the dry conditions to finish in a time that was just 23 seconds slower than the leading one but as it had now started to rain heavily, none of the next teams were even close to the best times. FDJ set a time of 26.00 to narrowly beat Colombia while Rodriguez got his race off to a disastrous start when his Katusha team finished in what was the slowest time so far.


Good ride by Movistar

Movistar did a good ride under the difficult conditions to finish in 25.37 while Lotto Belisol did even worse than Katusha to set the worst time at that point. Trek and Belkin both did good rides at a difficult point of the race to finish just 5 and 6 seconds behind Movistar repsectively.


Europcar were far off the pace and set a time that would ultimately only be good enough for 21st of the 22 teams while Lampre-Merida had a decent ride to stop the clock in 26.02 despite having to wait for teammate Przemyslaw Niemiec at the midpoint of the stage.


Sky perform well

Sky were the first team to get close to the best as a cohesive effort by the British team saw them stop the clock in 25.17 to make it into the provisional 3rd. Cannondale also did well to make it into fourth while Giant-Shimano finished almost in the same time as the Italians. However, the time loss was too big for sprinters Marcel Kittel and Elia Viviani who lost all hopes to taking the maglia rosa in the opening stages.


Disaster for Martin

Domenico Pozzovivo had a good reason to be pleased with a time of 25.40 for Ag2r while Androni did surprisingly well to finish in 25.56. At that point, however, all eyes were on Garmin-Sharp and the bad luck for Dan Martin.


The American team seemed to be on their way to a good performance when Martin, Haas, Koldo Fernandez and Andre Cardoso all crashed and by the time the four first riders had waited for Haas and finished their ride, they had lost a massive 3.26.


BMC and OPQS get close

Bardiani did surprisingly well to finish in 25.49 but the focus was now on BMC who had had completely dry roads for their stage. Daniel Oss led them across the line in a time that was just 7 seconds slower than Orica's to slot into the provisional 2nd.


Omega Pharma-Quick Step did even better when Pieter Serry led them across the line to stop the clock in a time that was 2 seconds better than BMC's. With just Astana and Neri Sottoli left on the course, Orica-GreenEDGE could start to celebrate their win as none of them were expected to contend for the win.


Astana and Michele Scarponi did well, however, to finish the stage in 6th while Neri Sottoli also had a solid ride to cross the line in 12th. At this point all eyes were on Tuft though as the Canadian enjoyed the biggest moment of his career by becoming the first holder of the maglia rosa.



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